We report studies to determine which bacteriophage genes are required for assembly of phage HK97 proheads and what roles they play. We identify the gene encoding the major capsid protein of phage HK97 and report its DNA sequence, together with the DNA sequences of the two genes immediately upstream from it. When the capsid protein is expressed from a plasmid in the absence of other phage-encoded proteins, it assembles, with good efficiency and accuracy into prohead-like structures composed of the unprocessed 42 kDa capsid protein. No separately encoded scaffolding protein is required for this assembly. If the 25 kDa product of the next gene upstream is co-expressed with the capsid protein, the prohead structures that are produced undergo the normal morphogenetic cleavage, which removes 102 amino acids from the N terminus of each subunit, leaving 31 kDa subunits. The 25 kDa protein is therefore probably a phage-encoded protease. The third gene, upstream from the protease gene, encodes the portal protein. Presence of the portal protein is not required for assembly of the capsid protein. Analysis of the phenotypes of four single amino acid-substitution mutants in the capsid-protein gene leads to several insights into the functions of the capsid protein and its interactions with the putative protease.